Knife expert Ernest Emerson curates your journey through the history of Indonesia's karambit. Of the many weapons fads that have come and gone, Emerson explores why these knives have stood the test of time!

How many martial arts fads have you seen come and go? Whether it's weapons, gadgets and tools or entire fighting systems, it’s rare that a fad will catch on and stick around for more than a few years. So when one does, it’s worth taking note. The karambit combat knives from Southeast Asia have the potential to be included in that elite group.


Travel back in time for Black Belt’s first in-depth look at the Indonesian martial arts with this FREE download! Pencak Silat: Techniques and History of the Indonesian Martial Arts

Brief History of the Karambit, Southeast Asia's Popular Combat Knives Over the past 4,000 years, mankind has effected thousands of variations in the design of swords, combat knives and impact weapons. The major influences in their evolutionary path are related to three triggers. The most profound one has been the discovery of new materials or the ability to process old materials into a more usable form. Human beings progressed from sharp sticks to stones, then to copper, bronze, iron and steel implements. Each discovery caused a major leap in weapon design and tactics. The second trigger has been the clash of cultures. Every time there was a physical shift of cultures — whether because of famine, natural disaster or invasion — an opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of the enemy ensued. Inevitably, each side would adapt, modify or copy the weapons and applications that appealed to its people.

Learn how martial arts weapons such as combat knives developed throughout human history in this FREE download! Hoplology: Martial Arts Weapons and How Humans Fight.

The third trigger has been invention and innovation. Whenever there was an advance in armor, weapon design or tactics, the development of the key needed to defeat it inevitably followed. Those that didn’t evolve quickly enough faded into obscurity or died off. Is it, then, safe to say that just because something has been surpassed by modern technology, it’s no longer effective? Far from it. For instance, the weapon of choice for some German street gangs is the baseball bat — which is nothing more than a club. A citizen can’t even possess one unless he’s playing baseball or on his way to or from a game. They’re restricted because they’re effective. The Design of the Karambit: Why These Combat Knives Work So Well How does all that relate to the karambit? Well, the aforementioned principles apply here as well. Consider: Why has the Japanese sword been around for more than a millennium? Why has the Nepalese kukri, or Gurkha knife, been used since the time of Alexander the Great? Why has the bow and arrow been in existence for 4,000 to 5,000 years? Because they all boast efficient designs that get the job done. The karambit is in the same boat. If the design of the karambit did not have merit, it too would have been relegated to the dustbin of history’s failures. The bottom line is, the karambit was a good knife then — and the karambit is even better now because of 21st-century manufacturing methods.

Learn how martial arts weapons such as combat knives developed throughout human history in this FREE download! Hoplology: Martial Arts Weapons and How Humans Fight.

Karambit Origins: Where Did These Popular Knives Come From? The origin of the karambit is shrouded in mystery and controversy, but it’s fairly certain that these combat knives were devised in Indonesia many centuries ago. Karambit combat knives have become popular among modern martial artists mainly because of the increasing interest practitioners are showing in the Indonesian fighting arts and the subsequent proliferation of schools that teach them — thus, karambit combat knives have started finding their way into the mainstream.
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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